Foreign-led TPMT hails gov’t, MILF for adhering to peace deal

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 03 June) – Seven years after signing their final peace deal, the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are demonstrating “a high-level of commitment” to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), according to an evaluation by the independent Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT).

Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. (right), Philippine Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconcialiation and Unity inspects weapons from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that were decommissioned during the launch of the second phase of the decommissioning process of MILF weapons and combatants in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat on 7 September 2019. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

The TPMT, formed in 2013 to monitor, review and assess the agreements forged by the parties, gave the thumbs up to the GPH and the MILF for reaching this far even amid the challenges posed by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“It has taken many years of dedicated effort and intense negotiations, of setbacks and advances to arrive at where we are today. The Filipino people can be proud of what has been achieved,” the TPMT said in a statement issued late last month and obtained on Thursday, 3 June.

“The peace process is now at a critical juncture, as bringing an end to five decades of this conflict has come within close reach. Realizing those dreams will require all partners to the peace process to continue to demonstrate the commitment, perseverance and patience which has achieved so much to this point,” it added.

German economist Heino Marius chairs the TPMT and counts as members Karen Tañada of the Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute, Rahib Kudto of the United Youth for Peace and Development, Inc., Huseyin Oruc of IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation and Sam Chittick of The Asia Foundation.

The GPH and the MILF signed the CAB in 2014 after 17 years of negotiations. Its key component, the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), was achieved in 2019 following the ratification of Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for the BARMM, popularly called the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

The TPMT noted that the BARMM is faced with a complex task of establishing an autonomous political entity, which should not be underestimated.

The BARMM is governed by the interim MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Authority, whose mandate will end on June 30, 2022. The BTA had sought the extension of the transition period, which gained the support of peace advocates in Mindanao. At least one million people have affixed their signatures backing extension of the transition period for three years to 2025.

To date, the 18th Congress, however, has yet to decide on the bid to extend the Bangsamoro transition period. It will adjourn its second regular session on Friday, 4 June.

The TPMT declined to make a stand on whether or not an extension of the transition period in the Bangsamoro region is justified, saying it is not within their mandate.

However, the body noted that Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez, Jr. and BARMM Interim Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim, who is also MILF chair, had both made clear their strong advocacy to extend the transition period to 2025 to give more time for the BTA to deliver and for the implementation of the provisions of the peace agreement.

“It would be of benefit to the peace process if the issue of extension could be resolved swiftly in the coming days in the interest of predictability and clarity on the way ahead,” the TPMT said.

The BOL mandates the passage of six priority measures by the BTA, which so far passed the administrative, civil and education codes of the region.

The other measures needed to be approved are the electoral, local government and revenue codes.

Currently, the GPH and the MILF are implementing the Annex on Normalization of the CAB, which provides for the decommissioning of MILF fighters and putting their weapons beyond use, and transforming MILF camps into peaceful and productive zones.  (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)

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